6 strategies to minimize decision-making and maximize time and energy
Published: July 27, 2022
By: Pam Moore
I spent my childhood longing for the sweet freedom of adulthood. Now that I have it, I find I’m happier when my choices are limited. And it turns out I’m not alone. According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, less is more when it comes to options, which he explains in his TED Talk, “The Paradox of Choice.” Science shows people tend to be happier when they have fewer choices.
By creating “rules” for what, how and when we are going to do things, routines limit or even eliminate the pesky choices that drain our time and energy, leaving us with more room to engage with the people and things that matter to us. Creating routines takes some up-front investment but once you have them dialed in, it’s
worth the hassle. Here are some strategies you can use to minimize decision-making and maximize time and energy for important things.
- Divide and conquer. My husband and I have a deal; until 7 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday I am free to “sleep in” or work out while he gets our kids dressed and fed. On Mondays and Wednesdays, we switch roles. This has been our agreement ever since I got the green light to exercise after our first child was born. Other parents have found beneficial ways to share responsibilities while finding time for things they enjoy. Kate Darby and Marc Neff, who are professors, parents of two and avid runners, have a unique way of making sure they both get their miles in. On weekends, one parent drives the kids to the park and the other parent runs to meet them. On the way home, whoever ran to the park drives the kids home, and their spouse runs home solo.Katie and Daniel Westreich, parents of two, take the concept a step further. Every week, they grant each other an entire day off from parent duties of any kind, including even seeing their two children. Katie jokes they have trademarked the arrangement, “Twenty percent divorced.”
- Schedule all the things. Savvy parents take the time to schedule everything in advance. Whether it’s time for the kids to get up, brush their teeth or head out the door, phone alarms can be used for anything. What did we ever do before phone alarms with customizable labels!? Joy Jackson, a stay-at-home mom of three, has a phone alarm scheduled to ding three times a week at 9:45 pm after her kids are tucked in for the night. “It’s the sex alarm,” says Jackson. “It says, ‘Hey reminder, you guys like each other but have your busy days made you forget?’” Elyana Funk’s two daughters have piano lessons every Thursday afternoon, which means Thursday is always pizza day. Says Elyana, a non-profit administrator, “I order it earlier in the day and schedule it so that it arrives when we do.”
- And use a shared electronic calendar app to do it. My husband and I started using a shared Google calendar when our first child was born over five years ago. My husband had been trying to bring me over the dark side (reading electronically) for years, but as a paper lover at heart, I wouldn’t budge — until we had a child and I had to make sure someone was scheduled to be in charge every time I went to work on a Saturday, worked out or met a friend. Now, I’m never surprised when my husband “invites” me to happy hours with the guys, and he’s come to expect “invitations” to girls’ night.
- Simplify your meals. Melissa Proia, a stay-at-home mom of three kids under six has egg frittatas every morning for breakfast. It may sound elaborate but it’s far simpler than even cereal or instant oatmeal. Once a week, she mixes up nine eggs, a pound of ground turkey, and veggies, bakes them in a casserole dish, cuts and wraps them into nine squares, and all she has to do is grab one and heat it up each morning. On Sundays, Sam Watts, a busy stay-at-home mom who juggles five part-time jobs, plans her family’s meals for the week, puts all the ingredients on her shopping list, and does her weekly shopping. Having this system dialed in means she never has to take extra time to think about dinner.
- Batch process. Never do something one at a time when you’re going to need to do it every day, every week or every month. Stay-at-home mom Meryl Hertz Junick does all her school lunch prepping at once. This way, she says, “I just need to refresh the containers in the insulated totes each night (or morning).” I make a double batch just about every time I bake muffins or prep a meal in the slow cooker. Those items freeze well and my future self always thanks me. With two children in elementary school, Elyana Funk says it feels like her family attends two birthday parties every weekend. She saves time by stockpiling birthday presents.
- Do it the night before. Although I’m normally a procrastinator, when it comes to my mom game, I do as much as I can the night before. I make my kids’ lunches while I make dinner. Funk has her coffee pot prepped and ready to go before she goes to sleep. Brittany Bouchard, a bank manager and mom of two girls, makes getting her kids dressed a breeze by putting entire outfits together on a hanger. So instead of helping her children choose a top, a bottom, socks, and underwear, each outfit is pre-planned and ready to wear. All her kids have to do is grab a hanger and go.
Pam Moore is an author and Ironman triathlete who encourages others to become their best selves.